Label Before Responding

I get angry sometimes. I have very specific opinions on how people should drive. I get upset when the Indianapolis Colts lose, or when the New England Patriots win. I get frustrated with my family, my friends and my colleagues, sometimes for no good reason at all.  

I think of it as an occupational hazard that comes with the title: Human. Emotions are a fundamental part of the human experience. As my friend Peggy Cenova once told me: Every decision is an emotional decision.  Our emotions are powerful. They can overwhelm us.

But our emotions don’t have to rule us.

This is important to me because I’m not great at it. I spend time thinking, and writing, about this topic because managing emotions is challenging. Yet, it is one of the most important ingredients to success.  In fact, in a 2011 national survey approximately 75% of employers said they would be more likely to promote employees with a higher EQ.

Does Your EQ Match Your IQ?

EQ is shorthand for Emotional Quotient, or Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional Intelligence has four basic dimensions: 1) Self Awareness; 2) Self-Management; 3) Social Awareness and; 4) Relationship Management.  Self-Awareness is the first step towards better Emotional Intelligence.

Self-Awareness begins by labeling our emotions, without judgement, when an emotional event occurs. It is a mindful action by which we identify the emotion we are experiencing “aka our reaction”, before we respond. It can be as simple as saying:

“I’m angry that Henry keeps talking in meetings because I’m afraid I’ll never get a chance to speak, and if I can’t speak how I can ever gain respect?”

When we pause and put a label on a reaction, our brain shifts from the limbic system, which governs our instinct and mood, towards the neocortex where language and logic live.

It is this shift from the limbic system to the neocortex which allows us to separate our conscious response from our unconscious reaction.  This change in perspective often leads to better, and more satisfying, decisions.

4 Steps in Less Than 5 Minutes

So the next time your find yourself in an emotionally charged situation, take five minutes to:

1) Pause (don’t let your reaction be your response!)

2) Breathe

3) Assign language to what you are feeling

4) Investigate why you feel the way you do

Once you do, you may find you’re better equipped for a more helpful response. 

Learn About EQ on May 24th 

Emotional Intelligence is a challenging topic. It requires a mixture of thinking, self-reflection, and intentional action. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this work alone.  At Shafer Leadership Academy we Create Great Local Leaders. 

Click here to learn how you can attend Emotional Intelligence: Discovering You at the Innovation Connector on May 24th. Scholarships are available!


About the author:

Mitch Isaacs was named Shafer Leadership Academy’s Executive Director in May 2015. In this role, he works closely with the organization’s board of directors to fulfill the mission of the organization. He is responsible for creating vision, connecting with stakeholders, administering program offerings and leading the organization in meaningful ways.  Learn more about Mitch »